09/09/2011 § Leave a comment
Americans with criminal records face legalized discrimination in the workplace, at the voting booth, and in their daily lives. But grassroots leaders across the country are breaking through “tough on crime” policies and winning major challenges to their second-class status.
The National Employment Law Project estimates that 65 million Americans have a criminal record, counting both convictions and arrests that did not lead to convictions. Since 1994, the fraction of major employers screening for criminal records has grown from 20 percent to more than 90 percent. People of color are disproportionately convicted, and suffer more discrimination after completing their sentences. Black ex-offenders are four times less likely to get initial job interviews than their white counterparts, despite equivalent credentials and offenses.
In Massachusetts, residents denied the ability to earn a living and support their families began to speak out and organize. A broad-based coalition led by ex-offenders and supported by youth organizations, labor unions, workforce agencies, and faith groups waged a 5-year “Ban the Box” campaign to end overt discrimination and eliminate the felony check-box from initial job application forms.
In July 2010, after dozens of major demonstrations, hundreds of legislative meetings, and thousands of constituent phone calls, the Massachusetts legislature passed a landmark criminal records reform bill including a “Ban the Box” provision. The new law makes employers evaluate applicants more fairly by allowing background checks only after an applicant is deemed qualified for the job.
California, Minnesota, and New Mexico have removed the question from state job applications, and more than 25 major cities have banned the box for city jobs. Hawai‘i and Massachusetts have extended the guidelines to all private-sector employers, setting a policy example for the rest of the nation.
My First Vote: Ex-offenders on reclaiming the human right to vote.
Formerly convicted Americans are also challenging felony disenfranchisement laws. In the last 15 years, they have won partial victories in 23 states restoring the vote for over 800,000 voters. Still, 35 states prevent over 5.3 million people, including 13 percent of all black men, from voting.
After decades of prison expansion, spiraling costs, and high recidivism rates, ex-prisoners and their allies are forcing states to review policies of wholesale exclusion. Massachusetts’ grassroots victory adds momentum to a growing national movement challenging the new Jim Crow and building a more just and inclusive society.
Aaron Tanaka wrote this article for Beyond Prisons, the Summer 2011 issue of YES! Magazine. Aaron is the executive director of the Boston Workers Alliance, co-coordinator of the Massachusetts “Ban the Box” campaign.
08/22/2011 § Leave a comment
video on international student labor/community organizing at hershey’s factory in PA – staged a sit in this month, another angle on globalizations impact on domestic work. www.guestworkeralliance.org
03/23/2011 § Leave a comment
there is a local campaign against a new whole foods in my neighborhood. whosefoods.org
03/10/2011 § Leave a comment
mona eltahawy on palestinian self determination and the inspiration of egypt tunisia and non violent movements. via justin mcintosh FB
02/02/2011 § Leave a comment
see this video of Asmaa Mahfouz of the April 6 Youth Movement – a dominant youth & young adult front calling for regime change, human rights and democracy.
Mahfouz goes hard on sideline spectators, calling them traitors for their unwillingness to stand for freedom. this video went viral and apparently helped move major demonstrations in tahir square on january 25th that sparked the uprising in egypt since.
Mahfouz is compelling, courageous and inspiring. those of us in the US that allow our government to support dictators like mubarek should find a fraction of her grit and demand that president obama stand with the democratic aspirations of the egyptian people.
or there’s always this..